REA is on course despite challenges

Sunday February 23 2020

 

By Patricia Litho

Yes, like any other growing institution, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), may be experiencing challenges, but it is surely on course.
Several demands and attacks are often made on energy sector service providers without the complainant trying to understand the roles of the different players or the dynamics that go with this very complex sector.

It is important that we understand that from generation, power is transmitted and then distributed, including the utility component.
For instance, REA’s main mandate is infrastructural development of electricity distribution lines for rural and peri-urban areas of Uganda.

REA also works with utility companies to ensure consumers actually get a connection. Take, for instance, the comment, ‘Debt in Uganda’s power sector must enhance, not undercut development’ in the Daily Monitor of January 25, in which it was indicated that the agency’s ‘… snail’s implementation pace is undermining the 2016 presidential pledge”.

I find this rather a strong accusation. Let’s look at how long REA has actually been in service and what it has achieved during that time. We should also assess the extent to which the various manifestos have been addressed.

The agency’s mandate targets universal access by 2040, through main grid extension, establishment of mini-grid and a bigger drive on the access agenda. REA is also supporting Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (Unbs) in the setting and observance of standards for standalone solar PV systems, whose acquisition still remains in the realm of consumer goods on the open market.

In the last 15 years, the agency has built 20,000km of the network coverage and more than 700,000 connections on the national grid. This is in comparison to 6,000km, which was in existence under the defunct Uganda Electricity Board (UEB).

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This has resulted in the electrification of virtually all district headquarters, save Buvuma, whose financing is being sought. Currently, government is in a preparatory phase to implement the “energy access scale up project” to start by July 2020 and seeks to expand the grid and make over one million connections, cater for energy access in refugee host communities and offer financial intermediation for energy scale up. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development as coordination unit, the Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company (UECCC) and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).

Under implementation are two flagship projects aimed at fulfilling the national electrification agenda, including the Electricity Connection Policy (ECP) that subsidises connections for all Ugandans targeting 300,000 connections annually by providing free meters and service cables for any citizen ready to connect to the national grid.

The second project is the “bridging the demand-supply gap through the accelerated rural electrification programme”. This project seeks to electrify 600 unserved sub-county headquarters and townships countrywide. The project has so far mobilised works in about 20 districts and will have covered in all the 104 districts under the project within the first quarter of 2020.

In addition, we have the grid intensification/densification projects that target highly populated areas such as municipalities, divisions and busy trading centres. The project will be connecting unserved load centres within a 2km footprint of the existing grid through transformer injections, expansion of low voltage network within short distances. This project is supported by kfW.

In addition, 600 minigrid projects have been identified for implementation in the Rural Electrification Master Plan.And 45 of these minigrid projects have been tendered out for development by private companies partnering with government under the public-private partnership arrangement and works have started in Lamwo, Rakai, Isingiro, etc.

Patricia Litho,
Rural Electrification Agency

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